A dynamic dream
Former UB student, brother form rap group Dynamic Inkline
It's a 70-degree September day and Kevin Lewis feels like he's in a dream.
With lights illuminating the dark stage of the Ithaca State Theatre, Lewis peeks out from backstage and sees the first two rows of faces followed by shadows of people that look like they go on for miles.
A bit of nervousness sinks in. He and his brother, Sean, are moments away from performing at one of Upstate New York's most prominent venues as the opening act for Grammy nominated rap artist Cam'ron.
Together, the brothers form Dynamic Inkline.
Just before they are ready to take the stage, their adrenaline kicks in. They were born to do this. This is their moment.
Lewis, a former UB student, dropped out of school at the conclusion of his sophomore year of college to pursue his dream of becoming a rap artist.
At a young age, Lewis and both of his brothers, Sean and Bryan, were enrolled in piano lessons by their mother, Jacquie, who was musically inclined.
"We all played ice hockey and at some point or another all of us had expressed interest in quitting the piano lessons," Bryan said. "Sometimes as a kid it's not as fun. Our mom convinced us to stick with it by saying that she wouldn't pay for our ice hockey if we dropped out of piano."
The three continued piano lessons, and Lewis and Sean would later branch out to other types of instruments while Bryan stuck with piano and later became a professional musician in Florida. Lewis played the drums and Sean played trumpet.
But around middle school, Lewis and Sean had developed interest in the genre of hip-hop. They admired artists like Nas, Notorious B.I.G. and Eminem.
For years, they studied their favorite artists and developed a passion for hip-hop and the craft of writing music.
"As far as Nas and Eminem, throughout their career, it's always been about the music," Sean said. "We plan on having the same outlook. No matter how big we get, it's always going to be about making the best possible music."
During the academic breaks of Kevin's freshman year of college and Sean's sophomore year, they worked together recording music and trying to produce a beat that would hook listeners.
But when they both returned to college, they realized school was getting in the way and they didn't have as much time.
Sean was the first to return home from SUNY Albany after realizing this.
But in the fall semester of 2010 at UB, Lewis was wrestling with the conflict of continuing to study business or to drop out of school and focus on what was really important to him - becoming a hip-hop artist.
It wasn't until the spring semester of his sophomore year that Lewis decided to pack all of his things up and head home to Ithaca.
"I always thought that I could take the risk and try to build [my career] up now. And if worst comes to worst, I could always go back to school," Lewis said. "It took hours and hours and days and days."
Sean also added that it was difficult to build on their foundation if they weren't in the same city.
Since returning home in 2011, the duo has established itself within the Ithaca music culture. This past summer, the two released their video called "Our Town" that featured their hit song and earned recognition on two local radio stations.
The video was popular on YouTube and received close to 25,000 hits and their Facebook page has since accumulated 1,500 'likes.'
When they aren't writing music or performing shows, they are working full-time jobs.
Sean works at a local establishment, Pizza Aroma, where he has worked for the last four to five years, while Lewis bartends at Loco Cantina, a bar near Cornell University.
For Lewis, the question of if dropping out of school was the right decision is always in the back of his mind when he goes in for a shift, but he believes he made his choice for a good reason.
"I'm relying on the tips to make ends' meet," Lewis said. "It's fun, though. It's kind of a cool situation because a bar atmosphere is just so social. And people are always asking me what I am doing and pursuing. It gives me one more avenue to push the music and to follow my dreams."
The two said that since the show with Cam'ron, they have gained more confidence and see no signs of letting up.